New York mainstay Cha-An Teahouse is opening a second outpost this Wednesday, May 1st, on East 9th Street, just a few storefronts away from its 15-year-old parent location. Cha-An BONBON will be an exclusively grab-and-go Japanese sweets shop for people who are curious about Cha-An’s traditional offerings without the formal atmosphere.
Because of Cha-An’s reputation as the definitive teahouse for all things matcha and wagashi (traditional Japanese confections) since it first opened in 2004, owner Bon Yagi and his daughter/business partner Sakura Yagi have now devised a way to satisfy all of the people looking to get in on some of the action. “We think that Cha-An is a bit too busy, and we can’t service all the customers who come to our store so we want to give people who want to try our things the opportunity to try them,” Sakura Yagi, COO of TIC Restaurant Group, told Gothamist.
BONBON will feature a pared down menu of Cha-An’s famous desserts, alongside the various teas that are customarily sipped with them, including matcha, one of Cha-An’s most popular items. “Cha has been serving matcha and Japanese sweets since 2004 so we are actually the trendsetters, but in the sense of having more people who understand what matcha is, it definitely helped to push us to open a to-go spot,” Yagi says. New York matcha-makers like Cha Cha Matcha have helped usher the (circa 12th century) caffeinated tea in to the limelight for some, but nothing about Cha-An’s relationship to the tea is novel. “We’re sticking to what we know best, which is very traditional stuff,” Yagi says. At BONBON, customers will have the option to embellish Cha-An’s traditional matcha latte with additions like red bean, mochi, and soft-serve ice cream.
Sakura Cookies. (Courtesy of Cha-An BONBON)
The 100-square-foot take-out shop will offer an assortment of desserts—from matcha tiramisu to Earl Grey chocolate—along with “our signature mochi as well as Japanese cream puffs,” Yagi adds. There will also be seasonal wagashi on the menu, exclusive to BONBON’s miniature storefront. “We are definitely going to have new items that aren’t available at Cha-An, like different flavors of the [mitarashi] dango, which is like mochi on a stick,” Yagi says. (For reference, Yagi instructs me to turn to my emoji keyboard, which features dango... the three multi-colored mochi balls on a diagonal skewer🍡). BONBON will also have anmitsu, a Japanese dessert made from jelly cubes (and a Cha-An classic), and sakura nerikiri, a cherry blossom cake. Though these are classic examples of wagashi, many of BONBON’s seasonal dessert recipes were developed by Yagi’s mother with the help of Cha-An staff.
Confectionery is certainly their sweet spot, but they flourish in the realm of the savory too. However, to taste their much-beloved toasts, featuring ingredients like raspberry butter and smoked salmon, you’re going to have to wait for a table at the Teahouse down the block. “BONBON is very similar to a traditional Japanese sweets shop,” Yagi says. "Hopefully when you walk in you’ll feel like it’s just an outpost of Cha-An and enjoy the desserts that we’re known for, [plus] new ones specific to BONBON.”
(Courtesy of Cha-An BONBON)
BONBON (located at 238 East 9th Street) will be closed on Tuesdays, but open every other weekday from noon to 8 p.m., and on Friday through Sunday until 9 p.m.